With the Locals


NINE-TO-FIVE: Jess Peterson - Mighty Oak Part II

Last week we wandered with Jess Peterson of Mighty Oak to some of her favorite places that inspire her and her work. This week, we're visiting the Mighty Oak Studio - which if possible, I think would offer a very similar experience as stepping into one of their films. Mighty Oak's portfolio boasts some impressive work for some major names - AT&TEstée Lauder, Samsung, The New York Times - to name a handful. While their original content shares equal brilliance and heart.

"This is one of those crazy stories that only seems to happen in New York. Our studio is actually… above my apartment! There had been an abandoned apartment above mine for as many years as I’ve lived here. So when Emily and I had outgrown our 200 square foot space in Bushwick, I begged my landlord to let us check it out. It was in awful condition, but we made a deal that I still can’t believe in order to take it over.

We worked on client projects from 10-7 and then paint, spackle, and strip floors until 11:30 every night for a month. I never thought I’d become so handy with a drill! We used bright colors to paint the walls and decorated the rooms with quirky objects and old art projects. 

We’ve scored a lot of great furniture finds on the neighborhood streets -- people give away amazing stuff around here. And with Michaela’s addition of playful ceramics and hand-made puppets, the studio has really come together with space to animate, fabricate, and drink lots of tea. It’s like some weird dollhouse diorama, which is pretty much what we were going for.

I live and work on the border of Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s an old Italian neighborhood -- especially our street. With exception of a few of us, everyone else on the block has owned their apartments for over 50 years. It’s a very connected community. Everyone knows you -- and you better stop to say hello to the older folks sitting on their stoops during the summer!

We have a mayor on the block named Sonny, who keeps an eye on everything. He watches our place when we’re out of town, has keys to all of the buildings, and has all sorts of stories about the ‘good old days.’ As a lover of stories (and half-Italian myself), it’s really a perfect neighborhood for me.

Mighty Oak is a full service creative studio that specializes in hand-made animation and documentary video. We like to fuse these two mediums to bring the human touch back into the picture for brands, organizations and films alike.

My partners Emily Collins and Michaela Olsen are the animating talent behind this whole production. Their collective experience in animation, documentary, education, and design are just a few of the things that I love about our partnership. They’ve animated for everyone from Devendra Banhart to Ben & Jerry’s and created a variety of award-winning short films on their own. They’re also great team players and really funny, which is clutch to any partnership.

Partnering with talents like Emily and Michaela was one of those special opportunities that I couldn’t pass up. I’m sure that none of us could have imagined starting such a niche studio in the creative agency world -- I’m not even sure such a thing existed when we were growing up! But we were lucky enough to find each other, and smart enough to act on it. Sometimes, you just have to know your strengths and be open to possibilities. :)


As we like to work with traditional stop motion techniques, our fabrication room consists of a lot of good old fashioned art supplies, fabrics, tools, and props.

photo kindly provided by Mighty Oak

photo kindly provided by Mighty Oak

The animation room is enclosed by two black out curtains (to create consistent lighting) basic film-lighting needs, c-stand, and our multiplane. Emily’s husband custom built the multiplane (he runs his own fabrication mill called Tri-lox) and it allows us to create a great sense of depth when animating varies cut paper scenes. We use a Canon 5D with Nikon lens for animating and C100 camera for our live action work.

But there’s much more to our creative process than making. We hold Monday meetings to walk through all aspects of the business, including our operations, marketing strategy, client solutions, and original storylines. We use project management software to keep our work on track, Quickbooks to run our accounting, and Google Drive to keep our files in order. It takes a lot of organization and communication to keep a creative business running!"

Louise and some treats from FOXY & WINSTON

Louise and some treats from FOXY & WINSTON